The notion of significance has a long history that underpins conservation practice. In 1979 the Burra Charter was adopted by Australia ICOMOS. Revisions in 1999 recast the concept of significance in a more participatory light and launched a new era in values-based heritage management by identifying a broader range of values and stakeholders to be considered in conservation practice. Yet despite the advances embodied in the Burra Charter, formal processes for values-based heritage assessment and conservation were still not prevalent as recently as two decades ago. Economic studies of heritage were uncommon, and the methodologies for undertaking them less developed and tested than they are today. At the same time, questions about the societal benefits of heritage conservation and its economic value arose with growing frequency toward the end of the twentieth century. Diverse groups also increasingly demanded the recognition of heritage they valued, and sought greater agency in the management of that heritage.

In response to such developments, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) launched the Agora initiative in 1997, under the direction of Marta de la Torre, to provide a forum in which “the complex social, political and economic issues raised by [the] protection [of heritage] could be explored and debated.”1 This initiative evolved into the GCI’s Research on the Values of Heritage project, which aimed to bridge economic and cultural approaches to valuing heritage and, ultimately, to advance development of a more integrated approach to conservation.

Between 1998 and 2005, through research, convening, and case studies, the project aimed to characterize the heritage values considered fundamental for conservation decisions; examine the potential contributions of economic analysis; develop methods for assessing heritage values and for their incorporation into conservation processes; and produce case studies examining values in site management. This work resulted in four publications: Economics and Heritage Conservation (1999), Values and Heritage Conservation (2000), Assessing the Values of Cultural Heritage (2002), and Heritage Values in Site Management: Four Case Studies (2005).2 More recent GCI activity has produced two additional publications focused on stakeholders and the application of consensus building and dispute resolution methods: A Didactic Case Study of Jarash Archaeological Site, Jordan: Stakeholders and Heritage Values in Site Management (2010),3 and Consensus Building, Negotiation, and Conflict Resolution for Heritage Place Management (2016).4 The GCI has also embedded values-based conservation in its own field projects and training efforts around the world.

This work at the GCI was part of a broader movement in the field to advance values-based planning methodologies. Today, the principle that a thorough understanding of the cultural significance of a place should guide all aspects of heritage decision making is fundamental to contemporary conservation practice. This principle is applied at all stages of the conservation process, from the identification of what is deemed heritage, to the development of conservation policies and intervention strategies, to the investment and expenditure of resources in heritage management activities. Implicit in this approach is the importance of engaging in management processes the multiple publics who use and care about a heritage place. Such engagement has been explicitly acknowledged in the codification of responsibilities of heritage professionals in the recently adopted “ICOMOS Ethical Principles.”5

Despite these significant developments in applied theory and practice, however, values-based approaches are not well researched and formalized, and policy change at the level of heritage governance is not prevalent around the world. New questions and issues are emerging in relation to values-based heritage management, including the recognition of a broader range of heritage typologies—tangible and intangible—and the development of new norms and methods of practice. In addition, the ways in which heritage functions within societies have evolved, with stakeholder communities in many places becoming increasingly active.

In 2016, two former GCI colleagues—Erica Avrami of Columbia University and Randall Mason of the University of Pennsylvania—approached the GCI about working collaboratively to further advance discourse on heritage values in response to these challenges. The result was a jointly organized symposium, “Values in Heritage Management: Emerging Approaches and Research Directions,” held in Los Angeles on February 6 and 7, 2017. The event brought together an invited group of scholars and practitioners to explore a range of emerging issues and approaches from a variety of geographic regions and professional disciplines. The ideas shared at the symposium served as a springboard for the individual contributions contained in this volume, including a discussion paper by Avrami and Mason in which they argue for a stronger alignment between values in heritage practice and societal values. The publication’s appendix contains conclusions and recommendations from the symposium regarding relevant challenges and gaps in the heritage field, as well as opportunities for improving heritage conservation outcomes through the better understanding, development, and use of values-based methodologies.

We are grateful to the volume editors—Erica Avrami, Susan Macdonald, Randall Mason, and David Myers—for conceiving the symposium and publication, and for guiding this volume to completion. We hope that this publication will provoke continued dialogue and, ultimately, contribute to the advancement of conservation practice.

  • Jeanne Marie TeutonicoAssociate Director, ProgramsThe Getty Conservation Institute


  1. Getty Conservation Institute, “The Agora, Values and Benefits Inquiry, Report of Initial Meeting,” unpublished report, 1996, 2.
  2. Randall Mason, ed., Economics and Heritage Conservation (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 1999); Erica Avrami, Randall Mason, and Marta de la Torre, eds., Values and Heritage Conservation: Research Report (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2000); Marta de la Torre, ed., Assessing the Values of Cultural Heritage (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2002); Marta de la Torre, ed., Heritage Values in Site Management: Four Case Studies (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2005). All of these publications are available at
  3. David Myers, Stacie Nicole Smith, and May Shaer, A Didactic Case Study of Jarash Archaeological Site, Jordan: Stakeholders and Heritage Values in Site Management (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute; Amman: Dept. of Antiquities, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, 2010); Stacie Nicole Smith, David Myers, and May Shaer, A Didactic Case Study of Jarash Archaeological Site, Jordan: Stakeholders and Heritage Values in Site Management: Teaching Materials (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute; Amman: Dept. of Antiquities, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, 2010). Both parts of the publication are available at
  4. David Myers, Stacie Nicole Smith, and Gail Ostergren, eds., Consensus Building, Negotiation, and Conflict Resolution for Heritage Place Management: Proceedings of a Workshop Organized by the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, California, 1–3 December 2009 (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2016),
  5. “ICOMOS Ethical Principles,” 2014,